Morning Report: Comparing Last Year’s Group to This Year

Yesterday, we gave scouting reports on all 15 of the new players over from the Dominican Summer League. Today, we take a look at the group of 15 that came over last year for the Fall Instructional League and how they handled the jump to the States. The players that come over from the DSL to the FIL usually return to Bradenton for Spring Training and for the most part, it gives you a good indication of the players that the team thinks highly of, though there are always some players that are just there as fillers as you will see below.

The interesting part about the group from last year is that even more players ended up coming over for minor league Spring Training this year. They Pittsburgh Pirates ended up dropping one of their two DSL affiliates last year and added a team(Bristol) in the States so there was a need for extra players. You can probably expect more players to show up next Spring Training from this year’s DSL club and the likely spots are the catchers. The Pirates have already signed three catchers for next season’s DSL team and one of them(Gabriel Brito), signed for $200,000, which is the second highest international bonus they have handed out so far during this current signing period.

Michael De La Cruz (left) and Tito Polo (right).
Michael De La Cruz (left) and Tito Polo (right).

The DSL Pirates already had three catchers, so one team obviously has no use for six catchers. Mikell Granberry and Ramy Perez could be in Spring Training in March, or come over in early May like a few players did this year. Granberry is the best prospect among the three DSL catchers and Perez was in his fourth season this year, so he is ineligible to play in the DSL next year. If he doesn’t come to the U.S., he needs to be released.

Getting back to the initial group of 15 players that came over last year, there were a pair of talented outfielders and one had a difficult year, while the other had a terrific season in the GCL. Michael de la Cruz was the best prospect in the DSL last year, but struggled with a couple minor injuries and the move to the U.S. and adjusting to a different country. Tito Polo on the other hand, hit .291/.374/.475 and showed off his five-tool talents. The difference between the two players is that de la Cruz is two years younger and probably still has the higher upside. As you can see by the videos below from today, Polo has filled out already and he is a beast, while de la Cruz looks like he needs to hit the weights and cheeseburgers(old Rene Gayo reference).

Third baseman Julio de la Cruz had a difficult first season in the DSL and was one of the players that returned in May instead of March. He ended up improving slightly on his stats from last year, which is what you want to see from a player moving up a level. Unfortunately, seeing him more often backed up the scouting report we got in May. He probably won’t make it as a third baseman and his future will be at first base, which means his bat really has to come around.

Catcher Yoel Gonzalez basically had the same results as Julio de la Cruz and was another player that returned in May. He struggled last year at the plate and showing a slight improvement this year. Gonzalez was the youngest player on the team, so the fact that he moved up and hit a little better, is a good sign. His defense is also more advanced than his batting, so he is one of the better prospects in this group.

Third baseman Jhoan Herrera made the jump to the States last year for the FIL and was scheduled to go to Bristol this season until an ankle injury changed those plans. He returned to the DSL once his ankle healed up and he returned to the FIL this year so he is right back where he was at this time last year.

Second baseman Pablo Reyes is very similar to Raul Siri, who is one of the best players that came over this year. Both are small second baseman, about the same age when they came over and they are both terrific natural hitters with good speed. Siri has a little more power and his defensive scouting reports were a little better, but otherwise, they are great comparisons. Reyes went to Bristol and hit well, so you could look at what he did and use it as a measuring stick for how well Siri does next year.

Outfielder Edgar Figueroa was called a poor man’s version of Tito Polo and Alex Bastardo, who was one of the players that came over during Spring Training for the first time. Figueroa does everything good, but nothing stood out as above average. At age 19, he moved up to Bristol and the jump was a little too much for him. He handled himself well defensively, but had a .576 OPS.

Catcher Reggie Cerda was an odd FIL invite and probably just came over due to a numbers game. With so many pitchers in the FIL, catchers are needed. Cerda wasn’t a prospect coming into the year and barely played this GCL season.

On the pitching side, there wasn’t much of interest among the seven players. Jose Batista was probably the best prospect of the group at this time last year and the 18-year-old lefty posted a 2.70 ERA out of the GCL bullpen. Good results, but you don’t like to see the limited role.

Omar Basulto is the type of lefty we warn you about. He gets by with less velocity because he has good secondary stuff and control, which is something we see a lot from lefties in the lower levels. The difference with Basulto from most is he is a little bigger than the average soft-tossing lefty. The 21-year-old went to the Bristol rotation and had a 3.95 ERA in 14 starts. He gave up too many hits, but had a 41:13 K/BB ratio in 54.2 innings.

Christian Henriquez struggled badly in the Bristol bullpen. He pitched three years in the DSL and he’s 22 years old already, so that is usually a sign that the upside is low. He wasn’t a surprise invite last year because he had very good results in 2013, but they obviously did not carry over.

Jandy Vasquez seemed like he was rushed to the States last year. He had just one year of pro experience and it didn’t go well, so at age 19, he could have used another year in the DSL. Vasquez missed this entire season due to right shoulder tendinitis.

The Fall League invitation of Remy De Aza really didn’t make sense last year. He had very little experience and horrible control issues. In the GCL bullpen he continued to pitch poorly. He just turned 20 and has good size, so that could keep him around another season, but he needs to show some sort of progress quickly. After the DSL season last year, I thought there was a chance he would just be released based on his stats and what I was told about him, but they brought him over anyway.

Jonathan Minier turned 24 in March, making him one of the oldest GCL players. He pitched good, but that doesn’t say much due to his age and the fact he was in the bullpen. Another odd choice that seemed like a bullpen filler.

Finally, Dan Urbina came over after missing most of the 2013 season. He went right to Bristol and posted an 8.01 ERA out of the bullpen. Urbina wasn’t a surprise invite because he had excellent stuff and his dad was the DSL pitching coach and former pitcher, so he’s had a good tutor growing up. He is probably better than the stats indicate.

The group that came over last year was disappointing for the most part because the best prospect(Michael de la Cruz) had a difficult season and only Tito Polo broke out, but he was a known commodity and still has a lot to prove before he becomes a legit prospect. Julio de la Cruz showed improvements, though his poor defense really stood out and he needs to move to a less important(first base) position.  Yoel Gonzalez also showed some slight improvements and he will stay at an important position, while Pablo Reyes held his own with a jump to Bristol. That leaves 11 players that didn’t show anything we didn’t know already, so the Pirates hope they get better results from the group that came over this year.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night. They are 1.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead. They are one game ahead of San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh holds the home field advantage if the two teams should finish tied.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes:  The Pirates won 3-2 on Tuesday to clinch a playoff spot. Jeff Locke will make his 21st start of the season tonight. It’s his first start against the Braves this year. In his last outing, Locke allowed two runs on five hits and no walks over seven innings. On the road this year, he has a 3.74 ERA in nine starts. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. The Indianapolis season recap and top ten. The Altoona season recap and top ten. Bradenton recap and top ten.

MLB: Pittsburgh (86-71)  vs Braves (76-81) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (3.60 ERA, 86:35 K/BB, 127.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look  at some recent video from the Fall Instructional League. Yesterday, we posted a summary of the new players in the FIL, which can be read here. Last year, Tito Polo and Michael de la Cruz came over from the DSL and played in the GCL, making this their second Fall Instructional League. Videos of both of them from Tuesday’s camp day can be seen below.

Tito Polo

Michael de la Cruz

Recent Transactions

9/16: Pirates activate Charlie Morton from disabled list.

9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.

9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including a few very recent players. From the youngest to oldest, we have:

Travis Ishikawa, first baseman for the 2014 Pirates, who would rejoin the team late in the 2015 season. He hit .217 in 53 games with the Pirates. Ishikawa also had two stints with the Giants during his eight-year career.

Jeff Karstens, pitcher from 2008 until 2012. Was signed by the Pirates for 2013, but missed the entire year due to injury. Karstens went 23-35, 4.31 in 82 starts and 41 relief appearances.

John McDonald, middle infielder for the 2013 Pirates. Hit .065 in 16 games. He played a total of 16 years in the majors, seeing time with eight different teams.

Jim Mangan, catcher for the Pirates in 1952 and 1954. He hit .179 over 25 games. Mangan played a total of 45 big league games over three seasons (1956 Giants), but he batted just 67 times and played a total of six complete games in the majors.

Dixie Walker, outfielder for the 1948-49 Pirates. He hit .306 over 18 seasons, with 1,037 runs scored, 1,023 RBIs, 2,064 hits and an .820 OPS. Led the NL in triples in 1937, average in 1944 and RBIs in 1945. Played in four All-Star games and got MVP votes in eight different seasons. Walker was acquired from the Dodgers as part of a six-player deal on December 8,1947.

Paddy Siglin, second baseman for the Pirates from 1914 until 1916. He played just 23 games over his three seasons, hitting .180 with nine singles. Played over 2,000 games in the minors.

Bob Vail, pitcher for the 1908 Pirates. Joined the team late in the year and made one start and three relief appearances, allowing ten runs over 15 innings.

On this date in 1913, the Pirates won 3-2 over the Cubs to move to 76-68 on the season, all but securing them their 15th straight winning season. Due to multiple rain outs, they ended up playing just five more games that season, finishing with a 78-71 record. They would fall below .500 in 1914, breaking the still-standing longest winning stretch in team history. Here’s the boxscore from September 24, 1913.

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